Akshaya Tritiya 2021: Online gold shopping perks up amid COVID

This Akshaya Tritiya it is not glittering for jewellers with consumer sentiment dampened by increasing cases of COVID, lockdowns and restrictions imposed in several parts of the country. However, jewellers are finding increasing takers for jewellery online.

Those who do not have a website for shopping have 'call and buy' options where the clients can call the jewellery store, make a booking and then pick up the jewellery after the lockdown is lifted. "We are seeing a lot of interest for gold coins in the range of 5 grams, 10 grams, 20 grams and 50 grams. Only around 10 percent of the clientele is interested in buying jewellery. With so much negative news about the COVID second wave, shortage of vaccines, deaths among friends and family; people are keen to buy something auspicious and positive for their family on Akshaya Tritiya day," said Pawan Gupta, Director, PP Jewellers by Pawan Gupta, Delhi.

Ever since the global pandemic struck Indian shores and the national lockdown was announced, gold shopping was the last item on consumer's mind. However, it threw open a new door for shopping for gold-- the online medium.

Online jewellery sales are expected to account for 1–2 percent of the fine jewellery segment by 2021–22, according to India Brand Equity Foundation.

Traditionally, gold shopping is a family affair in India. There is a lot of planning and the family goes together to a brick and mortar store and buys jewellery after touching and feeling it. The pandemic shut the door to that experience and customers slowly but surely began tapping into the digital medium. However, it is only the well-known, established and branded names that have been able to invest heavily into this medium and make shopping a seamless experience for customers.

Digital sales are picking up on Akshaya Tritiya and showing a sharp spike so far in the day (May 14) compared to last year when the day was a 'complete washout' said Somasundaram PR, Managing Director-India, World Gold Council.

Retailers have understood the importance of the digital medium. Many retailers had a year to work on the digital medium since the pandemic in 2020. "A lot of booking has taken place online, but the medium cannot ever replace brick and mortar shopping for gold in India," Somasundaram said.

The day yet to get to end for the celebrations today. But online sales are showing better traction today compared to last year, said Ashish Pethe, Partner, Waman Hari Pethe Jewellers. The Group has 24 outlets across the country. People are buying gold coins in 2 grams, 5 grams and 10 grams as 'muhurat shopping' for Akshaya Tritiya, he said.

Though online sales have picked up, it accounts for only a minuscule of overall operations. "Yet, it has jumped 1.5 times in the last year till now," Pethe said.

The digital medium has its limitations as it will work in metros and with established names in the business who can invest heavily in technology. "The tier 3 and 4 stores will find it difficult to invest in the digital medium and their clientele will not want to buy online too," added Somasundaram PR of World Gold Council.

In a statement from WGC, Somasundaram PR said, "Akshaya Tritiya is celebrated under the shadow of COVID pandemic for a second year in a row... Amid lockdowns in several parts of the country and an uneasy air of fear that hangs, consumer sentiment remains muted and offline sales have been severely impacted, particularly in major cities and gold consuming states like Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal. Many organised jewellers have, however, adopted digital and omnichannel strategies to reach out to their consumers, learning from the lockdown experience of 2020. Coupled with decent pre-bookings before lockdown, these steps could redeem the festival from being a complete washout and present a slightly improved picture than last year."

While online sales have increased, its share of revenues in the retail jewellery market has so far remained insignificant at less than 5 percent, according to a report by rating agency ICRA.

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